Université de Strasbourg

New technology for old knowledge: analysing medieval Chinese intertextuality

16 September 2021


USIAS Fellow 2021, Marie Bizais-Lillig, is applying modern database technology to better understand ancient medieval Chinese texts. 

In the Chinese Empire, texts were highly valued and played a fundamental role in the construction of a sophisticated society. The ability to write in certain ways was essential to rituals, social interactions, personal recognition and political institutions. Many texts of the medieval period (3rd - 10th century) are characterised by intertextuality – i.e. borrowing fragments of older texts to compose new ones. This phenomenon has been documented for literary texts, especially poetry. However, Marie Bizais-Lillig’s previous research suggests that intertextuality is a common thread that runs through a larger textual realm.

This led to her idea to embark on a more systematic study of intertextual phenomena throughout commentaries, lexicons, encyclopaedias and poetry. She argues that, if we want to understand how knowledge circulated among Chinese scholars, we need to identify how snippets of information appear throughout the valued texts and the supplementary genres because all played a role in education, erudition, and the transmission of knowledge.

In order to make a successful analysis of many different texts, Marie Bizais-Lillig has decided to harness modern technology and use it to create a database and develop text mining computational tools, a project for which she received a USIAS Fellowship that starts in September 2021. Earlier this year she was interviewed about her project by Marion Riegert for L’actualité de la recherche, a communication of the University of Strasbourg.

Read the article resulting from the interview: “The Book of Odes”, from poetry to reference book.

Link to USIAS project: The role played by poetry in the economy of knowledge in medieval China

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